The Billabong folk ride again – this time in wild country, droving cattle overland from the North. This is a story of good horses and dogs, their owners; and of a boy who found among them a new chance in life.
This is one of a series of books set in the Australian bush, recounting the adventures of the Linton family living on a station called “Billabong”. The saga stretches from 1910 to 1942, with the tumult of the period reflected in these incident-packed books.
This was another great addition to the Billabong series, but unfortunately I think it fell flat as the series finale. Mary Grant Bruce shows readers another part of Australian Outback life not previously discovered: droving. It fascinates me how she puts a new spin on similar topics. They’ve camped before, and they’re moved cattle before, but the characters haven’t actually droved so it was interesting learning what happens (though thankfully it’s fiction, therefore she doesn’t write pages and pages of slowly moving cattle. It’s spiced up with crazy Queensland lightning storms and cattle rustlers).
Something that annoyed me with this, was how much Jim and Wally were determined to keep Norah and Tommy (a girl – for those who haven’t read it) out of the action. Of course the girls got their way and they ended up coming, but they weren’t allowed to join for most of the interesting stuff. That confused me. Norah at least, is superb hand at cattle, and Tommy isn’t far behind, but they weren’t allowed to help with anything but slowly droving the cattle. They could have been very useful in one of the plots, but weren’t allowed to because they’re girls. However, Norah had always been involved in everything Jim and Wally did as they were children. Maybe, since Tommy arrived, they felt as though they could leave her and it wouldn’t seem like she’s being left out. Or maybe since they’re older, they are involved in more dangerous things than before, so it’s fitting for them to stay out.
The reason I wasn’t satisfied with the ending, as although we know the lives of Jim, Wally, Norah & Tommy are sorted out, I’m left thinking about what the heck happened to Bob? Bob was Tommy’s brother, and I really liked him. He was as kind as Jim and Wally, but he was more proud (not pigheaded proud) than them, therefore was a character in his own right. But he’s just disappeared by this book. In the previous book, Son of Billabong, he’s not in it, but neither are most of the Billabong crowd until the end, as it’s only Norah, Wally and Davie going on a holiday (P.S. on a smaller note, I don’t hear Norah or Wally miss their son once, even though they were on the trail for weeks . . . ?). In the book before that, Billabong Gold, Bob is mentioned. Of course he has to be, he’s right in with the gold business, and I thought that book was the set up for his happily ever after. Now that his sister is married off and living out of home, he was on his lonesome, but a young boy and his sister come visiting, and the sister happens to love flying – which is Bob’s favourite thing to do. I thought that was it, they’d get married in the next two books, and her brother would live at Billabong with the other young boy, Bill, who lives there on school holidays too. But there’s no mention of him in this book at all. They are away from Billabong for the majority of it, but at the beginning when they are planning the droving expedition at Billabong he’s no where at all. And there’s no mention of him being too busy with his farm. It’s as if he dropped off the face of the Earth. Did I miss something?
I like closure at the end of the series, but I didn’t have it here. It just felt like another story. There was no finality to the end. They even introduced a new character (which I always enjoy when Mary does), but it makes me wonder about him. I suspected that he was going to end up at Billabong, but it’s such a rushed sort of arrangement in the last few pages, it feels like she was just cutting it off.
I wonder if Mary ended it like that to give the sense that the Billabong crowd will always go on adventures with danger and new friends, but I also wonder about the date of publication and the date of her death. Billabong Riders was first published in 1942 and Mary died in 1958. Maybe she intended to publish something else, but didn’t.
I’m going to email the address on the Mary Grant Bruce official webpage and ask them what happened to Bob, and if she planned any more before she died. I’d like to know if she just ended it that way, or whether she had something else planned. If they knew what happened to Bob.